A Hot Wheels toy is designed much like a real car.
For the past few years Hot Wheels has held the Legends Tour, which sees owners of modified cars from all over the country compete for the chance to get their car produced as an actual, purchasable, 1:64-scale Hot Wheels die-cast toy. Last year’s winner was The Nash, an awesome hot rod 1957 Nash Metropolitan built by Greg Salzillo, and we got an inside look at how the toy version is designed and created.
As with a full-size car, the design process starts with sketches. The sketch phase is important not only to figure out how to condense the design to a much smaller size, but also to figure out how to break the car into the key parts. Each Hot Wheels die-cast is made up of four parts: the body, the windows, the interior, and the chassis with wheels. Because of The Nash’s strange shape, it was also important to pick the right colors for each of these components to preserve the car’s color scheme.
This 1957 Nash Metropolitan hot rod was turned into a Hot Wheels toy car
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After the sketching phase, the designers move onto digital 3D modeling. Designer Manson Cheung is part of the sculpting department, and he uses a “3D digital sculpting device” called Freeform. It’s basically like virtual clay, allowing him to sculpt a digital clay model of the car just like a designer would for a full-scale “real” car. The 3D modeling process lets the designers really fine-tune the details of the car and decide how it will actually be put together; at this stage it’s easy to make changes and refine the design. They even model how the car is going to look in the iconic Hot Wheels packaging.
The Nash’s wheels were one of the toughest things to replicate, as the real-life car has these large, narrow tires that are unlike what a regular Metropolitan (or a regular car) uses. The standard Hot Wheels wheels wouldn’t work, so the designers had to use “skinny wheels” that are rarely used by the company. Luckily, those wheels were still available for production and fit perfectly on the new die-cast.
Yes, car designers really do still use actual pen and paper!
Once the design has been mostly finalized, prototypes are 3D printed to test fit and see how the different parts and components come together in real life. The car may then go through more design changes depending on how it looks as a real toy — as you can see from some of the photos, things like the engine and hood were modified at this stage. Once the design has been completely locked in, a final 3D model is created and then fully painted preproduction samples are created, followed by the creation of the finished product and the packaging.
Now that the toy is all done, you’ll be able to buy The Nash in stores this December. Building the real car cost Salzillo less than $10,000, including what he paid for the car, but the Hot Wheels version will cost quite a bit less: just $1.09.
The 2020 Legends Tour was supposed to hit 18 cities throughout the US this year, but it had to be canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Instead, Hot Wheels is holding it digitally, allowing people to submit their rides online. There have been three “stops” so far, with a winner being chosen from each one, and two more to go. Of these finalists, one winner will be chosen at the livestreamed grand finale event in November, with that car getting turned into a commercially available toy next year.